Sunday, June 5, 2011 5:59am CDT

56 degrees   Clear   Wind 1mph  NNE
The Sunday morning choir of birds is in full song.
But what the whole congregation wants to know is 'How are the loon chicks?'
I can only make out one chick on the adult's back but others in the chat room have already reported seeing both chicks.  So I assume that one of them is still under a wing.
Right now it is a restful ride on mom or dad's back.
Restful is good.
Heaven knows that we have seen how quickly things can change.  So for now, it is great to see the chicks 'going along for the ride'.
Just minutes ago, I heard the distinctive sound of 'feet slapping on the water'.  One of the loons took flight and then flew over the nest with a series of flying tremolos.  Where he was going or if this was only to get some exercise, only he knows.
But right now it is just one of the loons with the chicks on board calmly swimming by the nest.
What has been surprising to me is how long the loons have stayed around the nest this year.  I am sure that they will gradually venture further and further afield.
The mate has just returned and I can now definitively confirm that both chicks are there and that they are doing fine.  One is swimming in the water and the other one is still riding on its parent's back.  They are swimming just out of camera range to the left.
Also slightly out of camera range to the left are a number of yellow irises that have begun to bloom.  The flower buds that show in the picture seem to be somewhat more camera shy.  But as the day(s) go on, I am sure that they too shall take their moment in the spotlight.
You can expect that as the chicks grow, the parents will gradually lead them further and further from the nest.  It has been 'common wisdom' that after the chicks hatch, the parents will bring them to a secluded 'nursery area'  protected in cattails or other cover for several weeks.  In all the years of watching loons here, I have never seen that to be the case.
They have simply stayed on open water.
But the fact that they have stayed so close to the nest for a number of days this year, has been unusual.  And wonderful for all the viewers of the LoonCam who have been able to watch them swim by the nest and even  get back up on the nest a few times.  I think it is because all of you have been so wonderful and that they can feel the love coming from you!
To me it is a very good thing that they are still near the nest.
Today promises to be another spectacular Minnesota summer day.  These are the days that hardy Minnesotans dream about in the dark depths of winter.
And because it will be such a nice Sunday, I am sure there will be lots of activity on the lake with fishermen and water skiiers and other boaters.  All things our loons have to be aware of and watch out for.
Our chicks still are not able to effectively dive to get away from danger.  So they are still very vulnerable to fast boats and unobservant drivers.  However, I have been amazed to watch as they are already able to dive for several seconds, even though they are still less than a week old.
Each day that goes by increases their chances of surviving dramatically.
Already they have grown significantly since we first saw them - when one of them was still half in and half out of the egg shell.
There have been a few comments and questions about our loons being sighted on another part of the lake with the  chicks and if 'our loons' had swam that far.
I don't think so.
I really think that must actually be another pair of loons who had been reported to have a nest on another part of the lake.  Because in all the times I have been home, 'our loons' have been right here with the chicks, near the nest.  So I would be very surprised if they had taken the chicks all the way across the lake.
I have not been out on the lake at all since we are pretty much 'shore bound' as long as the loons are here.  No boats or canoes have left from this 'port'.
But that is very encouraging to hear that there may be another set of chicks on the lake!  As far as I know, that would be the first time on record that there have been two successful hatches of loon chicks on this lake.
When I am finally able to get out on the lake, I will have to try to check that out.  I had gotten several reports about another nest.  And even one report that said it had 3 eggs in it, which is unusual.  I had even gotten a couple reports that the nest had been lost to high water but that does not sound like it is the case.
Several also asked questions about this video "Why They're Call Loons" and asked me to comment on what is happening:
There are a couple questions that I have about the video but at first glance it looks to me like a very typical intense battle over territory by two male loons.
Some of you will remember last year when I described a prolonged chase that went on for 15 to 20 minutes.  That chase was one of several reasons why I wonder if we did not have a change of nesting pairs last year.
It was exactly like the chase that you are seeing in the video.  There could not be a better illustration of what I saw last year.
However, what surprises me is the date on the video.  The date given is September.
That date does not seem right for this behavior.  I could easily see this happening in the spring as males battle for territory.  But by September, most loons have become much less territorial and are socializing with each other.
So all of that is to say that it looks for all the world like a territorial battle between two males.  But there are some little things that don't fit.
If you watch the video, you will see the the loon being chased tries to stop once in a while.  You can imagine how tiring this would be for both loons!  But then when he sees the other loon has not given up the chase, he shifts into high gear and off he goes again, paddling for all he is worth.
Like I said, the chase I watched last year lasted for a full 15 or 20 minutes.  I cannot even begin to imagine how tired the loons were after that chase.
Once again this is an illustration of how little we know and how much we have to learn about these wonderful birds.
Our wonderful loons.  The voice of the northwoods!
Questions or Comments?